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Tacks and oil spread on route - but response to event seems overwhelmingly positive

Saboteurs spreading tacks and oil on the route of Sunday’s inaugural Velo Birmingham closed road sportive failed to dent the enjoyment of the 15,000 cyclists taking part in the event or the enthusiasm of the crowds of locals who turned out in force to cheer them on.

The event was re-routed several times in recent months due to local businesses in counties surrounding Birmingham complaining about road closures, and it seems that some people were determined to try and disrupt the event at the weekend.

According to the Birmingham Mail, tacks, nails and even razor blades were scattered on the route of the event, which started in Broad Street and took participants into the Black Country, Staffordshire and Worcestershire.

While that clearly caused inconvenience for those cyclists who did puncture, and also meant organisers needed to ensure the hazards were cleaned up, the experience of participants and alike seems to have been overwhelmingly positive.

In a comment to the Birmingham Mail’s story, the mother of one teenage participant said that while her son punctured three times in the first 20 miles, “he didn’t care” since “the mechanical assistance was brilliant plus he is equipped for such moments and there was no way he wasn't going to complete the course if he could.”

She continued: “He came back to me buzzing and happy, the people by the side of the road made his day, so many children high-fived him as he passed and such great company and support.”

Another cyclist taking part was road.cc’s Dave Atkinson, who said: “We went out in the very first group at about 7.15am, but behind that the riders were delayed for about half an hour.

“Talking to other riders, no information was given as to the reason for the delay, but it looks likely that they were dealing with at least one incident on the course.

“We didn’t have many riders in front of us, and we didn’t see any tacks on the road, but we did see a fair few riders with punctures, certainly more than you’d expect in the first hour of a closed-road sportive on good surfaces.

“I also heard that one of the support motorbikes suffered a puncture due to a tack in the tyre.

“There was also oil on the circuit before the first feed stop at 20 miles. Given that the oil was all the way across the carriageway, and there was lots of it, it looked deliberate.

“The organisers had covered the oil with straw and were slowing and directing riders in single file; it didn’t cause us any issues as we were a small group at the time.”

Rachel Farrow, who lives in the Worcestershire village of Little Witley, told road.cc that before the event, “the local press seemed to be on a mission to stoke the negative feelings with a rather anti cycling agenda.”

However, she said that the event, which she watched from the roadside with her children, “generated a real buzz in our community” and that she noticed when driving through Bewdley on Saturday that the town had made “a massive effort with bunting, signs and lots of old bicycles which had been painted different colours around the town.”

She continued: “It was great for my kids in our rural location to see something different and exciting happening. Due to the main road being closed they got to ride their bikes safely through our village which just isn’t possible usually due to the traffic that comes in off the main road.

Velo Birmingham 2017 - young supporters (picture courtesy Rachel Farrow).jpg

Velo Birmingham 2017 - young supporters (picture courtesy Rachel Farrow).jpg

Picture courtesy Rachel Farrow

“The kids loved spotting the cyclists approaching, they cheered and waved their sign and were delighted to get waves and ‘thank yous!’ back.

“We watched for a couple of hours then had to head off to a christening, which was in Great Witley, so we got to see it from there as well.

“Yes, we had to take a detour to get there, but really it wasn’t that much hassle.

“By that point the cyclists were coming through constantly and there was a good crowd cheering them on. With the road closure it was nice to see the place pedestrianised and loads of people out and about on foot.”

She added that it was “a real treat to get something on our doorstep for once for us and the kids.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

22 comments

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HarrogateSpa [505 posts] 3 months ago
9 likes

I love Rachel Farrow's story and picture.

I rode the event and enjoyed it. I did see some tacks on the road. Lots of people punctured, but luckily I avoided it. It's shocking that someone thinks it's a good idea to throw bits of metal and nails on the road.

Now he has set the precedent, I assume Jesse Norman is going to be firing letters off to nail manufacturers and hardware shops. Or does he only do that when he thinks he can get some cheap popularity from right-wing tabloids?

There was nobody giving any information when we were waiting to start - there was just no member of staff there at all. Also, the feed stations were a total bunfight, and an important one at 55 miles had run out of food and water, which is unforgiveable.

The organisers did well on some aspects, and badly on others. Assuming they run it again, they really need to sharpen up.

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bike_food [179 posts] 3 months ago
7 likes

Will the local inbreds be out stretching barbed wire over the road & dousing it with petrol for the 1/2 marathon?

WTF is up with people, the irony of it all of course is that the roads stay shut for longer to deal with the punctures etc.

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Timsen [77 posts] 3 months ago
4 likes

Riding on closed roads and the support in Bewdley, Halesowen and Clent was brilliant.

The feedstops were however a disastor, the biggest queues I have ever seen at this type of event and some ran out. There were too many riders for some of the roads & in some instances blockages were caused by the organisers own vans.

Overlall much better than I expected but a lot of work to be done !

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Yorkshire wallet [1636 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes

Is tack dropping the new national pastime?

Hopefully some of the tacking idiots will forget where they tacked and do their own tyres in.

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SlowPuncture [4 posts] 3 months ago
1 like
Timsen wrote:

The feedstops were however a disastor, the biggest queues I have ever seen at this type of event and some ran out. There were too many riders for some of the roads & in some instances blockages were caused by the organisers own vans.

Agreed. Hopefully they will learn from it. It was particularly irritating when every hill would cause a massive tailback as many who could handle the flat or downhill came to a halt as soon as they had to go up.

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burtthebike [1280 posts] 3 months ago
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Great that this event went to well in the end, and the local support was so good.  I'm sure the tack spreaders will be disappointed.

Spreading tacks and oil is stupid, dangerous, and should surely be classified as a hate crime.  If any cyclist had been injured, or even killed as a result, would the police have caught the culprits and what would they have been prosecuted for?  And even if they were prosecuted and found guilty, what sentence would they have got?  Eighteen months?

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theironduck [92 posts] 3 months ago
7 likes

Many thanks  to Rachel and her kids and all the other wonderful people who cheered us on - a good day had by all it seems.

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scouser_andy [44 posts] 3 months ago
7 likes

I couldn't ride through illness, but did go up to watch the missus compete. I really have to say, the people of Birmingham were super friendly and almost everyone seemed to get in to the spirit of it.

 

It was a great advert for your city and meant that  we really got to feel the warmth that you and your people had to offer, see how lovely the city's architecture is and spend hundreds of pounds each within the local economy in the process. I'm likely to return to Birmingham in a non-cyle related way as the event was a great advert for the region.

 

Closing the roads just once a year seems like a price worth paying for me.  

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Joden [9 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes

Really good route and with 2000m of climb more of a challenge than Ride London. But feedstations with no feed!! Queuing at a petrol station to buy Mars bars to see me through to the end was not in my ride plan.  Not even Jesus could have stretched out what was provided to feed 15,000. 

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Joel1973 [1 post] 3 months ago
6 likes

I am Staffordshire born and bred and lived in the black country for the last 13 years. When I heard about a closed road 100 mile sportive in Birmingham I could not miss it. This event has helped bring cycling to the Midlands. Yes it may have disrupted a few businesses and inconvenienced a few people on the roads but the bigger picture is it brought thousands of people into the city. It also brought 15000 cyclists to little towns and communities in the rural areas, and because of the support that was received I am sure many will return (I know I want to). It has also raised thousands of pounds for local and national charities. Yes there were teething problems with the event, the start waves slightly disjointed and little info being passed on, the feed stations not adequately stocked and in poor locations so people were queuing on the course and at the finish many people couldn't get in the arena at the end without a 40 min wait. The saddest thing was the saboteurs throwing tacks and oil on the course (I was 1 who picked up 2 flat tyres due to tacks). However, I will be back next year, I loved riding in my home area on beautiful roads being supported by large crowds, many who spent several hours on the course cheering people on, many giving water, fruit, cakes, gels and thousands of high 5's. Every single person was fantastic, however Bewdley was inspirational. I have done many events and nothing was like this.... special.

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britspeed [15 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

I had no problems with the event, very good course, very enjoyable day, well stocked food stations. If people got to food stations with no food, I would suggest cycling faster!! ☺

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pcb21 [31 posts] 3 months ago
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Such a shame to hear the feed zones were a disaster for so many ... i stopped only at 75 miles (Droitwich) and the place was practically deserted... piles of stuff and many enthusiastic helpers. Feeling guilty for having a double espresso rather than single at the coffee shot station.... 

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TedC [40 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

Really enjoyed the ride, a lot harder than Ride London.

Didn't have issues with food as I carry sufficient with me. But water facilities could have been improved by having more taps - I didn't bother at the one in a lay by due to the queues, and had to put up with the wait at the stop at a petrol station (73 miles in?), shorter queue.

Overall a good day, with some improvements for next year.

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PapaSmurf [31 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes
britspeed wrote:

I had no problems with the event, very good course, very enjoyable day, well stocked food stations. If people got to food stations with no food, I would suggest cycling faster!! ☺

I tried to go faster and did with the support of the lovely people of the WEst Mids. I started in the last pen which was delayed at the start, so ridinding at a pace twice as fast as my normal was not possible. So solutions are sometimes not so simple as your thinking.

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sooper6 [29 posts] 3 months ago
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It’s always the same with the feed stations. I was about mid field and there were plenty of supplies but people were taking great handfuls of food after eating and stuffing their pockets  full to bursting.

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Joden [9 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
PapaSmurf wrote:
britspeed wrote:

I had no problems with the event, very good course, very enjoyable day, well stocked food stations. If people got to food stations with no food, I would suggest cycling faster!! ☺

I tried to go faster and did with the support of the lovely people of the WEst Mids. I started in the last pen which was delayed at the start, so ridinding at a pace twice as fast as my normal was not possible. So solutions are sometimes not so simple as your thinking.

Yeah first wave started at 7 and I started well after 9. Must remember to ride faster next time to beat all the corporate types to the trough.

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Judge dreadful [275 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
PapaSmurf wrote:
britspeed wrote:

I had no problems with the event, very good course, very enjoyable day, well stocked food stations. If people got to food stations with no food, I would suggest cycling faster!! ☺

 I started in the last pen which was delayed at the start, so ridinding at a pace twice as fast as my normal was not possible. So solutions are sometimes not so simple as your thinking.

 

I started in the second to last pen, realising what a nightmare that was going to cause ( re: feed stations and congestion) I did what @britspeed suggests, and rode absolutely flat out for the first 30 miles. It works, if you get a duff starting position, ride the bike like you stole it, for the first few miles, and you'll soon find yourself in a more favourable position.

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Jem PT [152 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

My start time was 7.25, but was delayed (don't know why?).

Thoroughly enjoyable ride, and yes, tougher than Prudential Ride London. Being one of the earlier starters I had no problems at the feed stations, although the last one just before 'Mount Ribble' was crowded with pub-goers cheering everyone on - all good fun though! Riding over the River Severn and up into Bewdley was the highlight for me. That and the fantastic support from the locals cheering complete strangers on. This far outweighed the few haters.

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il sole [86 posts] 3 months ago
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Jem PT wrote:

 Riding over the River Severn and up into Bewdley was the highlight for me. That and the fantastic support from the locals cheering complete strangers on. This far outweighed the few haters.

I agree, a real highlight. I had no idea Bewdley was so pretty! managed to high five around a dozen kids there! 

I would agree with other people's views that the feed stations were poor. but they are too at Ride london and velothon Wales. but I will say that when i reached the bottom of the largest climb just after the feed station at around 85 miles (was it st kelems pass or something like that?) instead of stopping, they had guys out on the right hand side of the road handing out water and gels - i managed to get some water and pass it back half empty 200 meters up the road - made me feel well pro! so much so, i managed to smash the climb finishing around 70th I think on Strava...

Overall a great ride - not as good as velothon wales, not as fast as ride london, but still excellent with a super run in which was nice and challenging. no idea what my official 'garmin' time was (minus stopping) as my (soon to be smashed with a hammer) 820 decided to lose half the ride...

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martin_in_surrey [3 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

I was in the second to last start pen, and suffered from "bunching" on a number of occassions, at a couple of points having to stop completely as the road just didn't have the capacity to handle the number of riders.  Unlike Ride London where faster riders start earliest, start pens did not seem to be determined by estimated finish times and no doubt this added to the bunching issues.

The queues for the feed stations were so long I didn't bother using them and relied on gels and energy bars I carried with me.  At the first feed stop the queues blocked the road for those who didn't want to stop - partly a result of choosing a poor location for the feed stop.

As noted elsewhere,  the organisers vans caused blockages as well - at one point four of them parked one behind the other ..... on a bend.

The ride itself was definitely harder than Ride London.  It was disappointing that the start of the single significant climb wasn't indicated.

Universally the crowds were brilliant and created great a atmosphere in the villages and towns.  Putting rider names as well as numbers on the bike was a fantastic idea.

All in all I enjoyed the ride and the event, but felt it was let down by poor organisation.  The ride itself 7/10, organisation 2/10.  WIll probably eneter again for next year, largely because there are so few closed road events.

For future events I'd prefer to see the Cycle Show and Velo Birmingham coming together in some way, with Velo registration at the Cycle Show rather than the completely atmosphere-less NIA.  Or, better still, just mail out the rider packs.

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dave atkinson [6337 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

Joden wrote:

PapaSmurf wrote:

britspeed wrote:

I had no problems with the event, very good course, very enjoyable day, well stocked food stations. If people got to food stations with no food, I would suggest cycling faster!! ☺

I tried to go faster and did with the support of the lovely people of the WEst Mids. I started in the last pen which was delayed at the start, so ridinding at a pace twice as fast as my normal was not possible. So solutions are sometimes not so simple as your thinking.

Yeah first wave started at 7 and I started well after 9. Must remember to ride faster next time to beat all the corporate types to the trough.

corporate types and journalist freeloaders  3

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PapaSmurf [31 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
burtthebike wrote:

Great that this event went to well in the end, and the local support was so good.  I'm sure the tack spreaders will be disappointed.

Spreading tacks and oil is stupid, dangerous, and should surely be classified as a hate crime.  If any cyclist had been injured, or even killed as a result, would the police have caught the culprits and what would they have been prosecuted for?  And even if they were prosecuted and found guilty, what sentence would they have got?  Eighteen months?

The oil is definately an environmental offence too, Nobs.